Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Dear Diary: Good-bye Berkeley

I'm walking to Peet's Coffee knowing that today morning would be one of the last times I would taste the bitter roast that I have so come to appreciate. The quiet "city" of Berkeley has grown on me, a city that stands in stark contrast to bustling Singapore and New York, where people don't stop to ask "hey, how's it going?" unless are waiters working for a tip. Where people seem too busy smiling at their iPhones than at the person next to them on that busy subway. 

Dear Berkeley, I cannot imagine living here forever, but the months that I have spent in your heart has left me memories that I will never forget. I will never forget the first few steps I took on your streets, marvelling at the fascinating graffiti illegal back home. I will never forget my first steps on campus, wondering who I was going to meet in this foreign place I had to call home. I will never forget the nights of laughter, with strangers I today proudly call my friends. I will never forget the nights drenched in tears, where I would miss my world from thousand miles away. The view from the balcony, where I would watch the sunset as I pen my journal, and the stars that fill the sky when night falls on your streets. Oh Berkeley, how could I ever forget?

Here I have loved, and here I have lost, but here I have come to learn so very much.I don't regret a single bit of it. 

Good-bye Berkeley, it's been hella real. 

(Edit: was going to post this one day before I flew back to Singapore, but things got hectic and so here it is anyway, a month tardy but just as real)

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Muse: Do you remember me?

It is rather curious 
The odd moments 
In which we find ourselves 
Doing things 
We never thought we would do. 

Do you remember me?
For in absence of presence 
And in habits not my own
I find the little things 
My heart holds fondest. 

Because I do
I do remember you.

Dear Diary: I haven't gotten it all together

I have come to realize that I am the sort of person who seems to be perpetually under a certain degree of pressure --mostly of the self-imposed sort. There is something inherent within me that urges my being to be more than I can be, that compels me to think that at any moment in time one could always be more than one currently is. I have always been persuaded to consider such a state of being healthy, for it drives an individual from within, even when the external world crumbles apart, out of control.

Of late, however, I have been met with modes that have not been within my own jurisdiction, occurring with a frequency admittedly beyond my liking (rather dismal, really). It is lamentable to have understood this only all these years later, but I cannot deny that I feel at many points the besetting need to have life situations within my own control, so much so that when reality presents itself otherwise I almost always seem to fall into a state of consternation. The mechanism I employ in turn seems completely to abnegate the state of being I am in, and then redirect all my energy into an outlet of productivity, such as work. I suppose this is not the worst senario one could derive, particularly when compared to the devices I had employed half a decade ago, as a late teenager. 

There has recently been a sort of strain that I cannot quite construe. It has a fixed relation to the realisation that senior year of college is fast approaching --the thought of entering the corporate world throws me off slightly, and always has. It is rather outlandish, to think that I have not an inkling where I would be working in the next year. I have always been ready to move, for I never felt a genuine sense of belonging or attachment to any particular country, having spent my formative and developmental years in several. Life has always been an adventure, and the unknown a drug that brings me a certain "joie de vivre", although almost always intermingled with some anxiety. 

What is dispiriting on occasion is the fact that people seem to assume that I would end up "just fine". I cannot deny that if lucky stars exist, I have been the recipient of one too many, having chanced upon golden opportunities and blessed with experiences I would not trade for any material thing. However, I have not the confidence in this moment to say that I would be all right. For in reality, what of the future? One is never certain, and in this moment, I do not think I have ever been more uncertain. I have not gotten it all together, not like people think.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Muse: Blue skies

I oft thought I might not see, 
blue skies as it was told to me.

Clouds by the plenty, 
were but distraction mighty

Grey clouds abounded, 
bright skies eluded

Wanting, waiting
Would I ever see?

Dear Diary: Thoughts from a café

I start every entry with a cliche resignation that more time has transpired then I should like it to have since my last writing. That is not entirely true, however --I have in recent days taken to the old-fashioned way of writing, and have been updating rather frequently in my black leather Moleskine. As I sit here with a cup of hazelnut latte, I am no longer in the sunny island of Singapore --the weather is in fact rather melancholic, often filled with dark skies and sporadic rainfall, although I have also witnessed the rays of sunlight that peeks ever so often. In fact, the beautiful Tokyo and New York City have been lovely experiences that I have so had the privilege of experiencing before I arrived here in California. The San Francisco bay is rather representative of me, I often say  --it does not know quite what it wants. One could walk out in a tank top and return with a wool coat (no doubt a pain) but I have grown fond of it. It rather attracts me, with its odd temperament and quirks.

So much has taken its place in my life since I last wrote, that it appears to me almost akin a movie, or a film of some sort. There are some things that just do not present themselves in the reality of everyday life --or do they? I am convicted that life courses are constructed, by the social structure in which we inevitably reside, but not without individual agency. And I chose to go on an adventure --for what of life without it? The fear, the danger that I could potentially touch almost excite me, for what is the worst that could happen that I have not seen? I wonder. Taking a leap over a boulder meant one is presented with a chance of survival, although the possibility of death remains ever present. Had I not so chosen,I would be left only with the latter option, and I did not (and I do not) want to live live as such.

I have grown braver, I think. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Muse: The girl who wrote.

She wrote because there were things in her head that would not be quiet. It frightened her a little --perhaps more than a little. Had one been watching her in that moment, one would yearn deeply to utter that she had not reason to be afraid. For the voices, they existed in all humans, and they always have. She had begun to hear them as she advanced in age, and in every passing day she grew to be increasingly silent, for there became by now nothing she saw in words. They were profitless, feckless, and slowly she stopped speaking. It was then that the voices came, at first one and then all in the same instant. And as the days passed, all she could hear were voices, voices increasingly brazen, dangerous, but inimitably enticing. They were speaking yet again, hinting of the brilliant gush of crimson she should witness as her translucent skin was pierced. She was tempted... so very tempted. Her gaze flittered to the jagged tip of a fountain pen, barely a few inches away from her touch, and she shut her eyes. Her fingers clutched the pen, trembling, and she began writing, ever so furiously, as if her young life should depend on it. She wrote and wrote, and she never stopped.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Review: NUS FASS Sociology Modules

I've received quite a number of questions on ask.fm about Sociology modules (as well as from personal friends and some juniors) so I thought I'd put this up for the benefit of those of you who are planning on taking any of these modules. Obviously, these reviews are based on my subjective personal experience and may not be representative of your experience, especially if you take it under a different professor. I would really recommend looking up multiple reviews and seeking the advice of a senior you know personally. I only started taking Sociology modules properly in the second semester of my first year, so I was definitely quite lost for a few of my level 2 modules. Level 3 modules are also significantly more demanding, so I wouldn't suggest taking them as UEs if you don't have background in the discipline (unless of course you have an S/U to spare). Hope this helps clarify some doubts nonetheless (:

SC1101E -Introduction to Sociology
Professors: A/P Tan Ern Ser and Kelvin Low
I took this in Year 1 Sem 1, before I even considered majoring in Sociology. To be honest, I can't remember much of it except that each lecture touched on a different topic such as power, class, etc which were then discussed in brief. I would say it's a good module to go for if you want to solicit a general overview of the topics discussed in the discipline of sociology, but it is definitely not representative of the rigour of the discipline as a whole. I must say it's pretty difficult to do badly ( take my word for it because as you might know I was homeschooled so I really did not have any idea what was going on) due to the extremely large cohort in Sem 1, so the bell curve is pretty forgiving. Although only briefly explored, the issues raised were interesting and sparked my interest in the subject so I would definitely still recommend this module, even if you aren't planning to major.
Workload: Light ( you don't have to do the readings to do well for the module as it is more extensive than intensive )
Grade: A-

SC2204 -Social Inequalities
Professors: A/P Tan Ern Ser and Kelvin Low
This was actually one of the crappiest modules I have taken in school, not due to the content but due to a bad experience I've had with a tutor who was both condescending and unprofessional. He (I choose to keep his identity anonymous as he is no longer teaching in NUS) really affected my morale as I was already not very confident of my academic aptitude to begin with, and I "gave up" on the module ( aka skipped lectures and  did not hand in work because I was sort of traumatised by the way he handled the class and students in general), which obviously led to a less-than-ideal overall grade. In terms of content, I find it to be pretty manageable on retrospect, and most of my friends from Sociology consider it to be a module worth taking. Probably can't comment much though, so I would suggest looking elsewhere for a review on this module.
Workload: Manageable 
Grade: B+

SC2101-Methods of Social Research 
Professor: Dr. Feng Qiu Shi
I was initially quite apprehensive as this module involved both quantitative and qualitative aspects. I never liked math (there's a reason why we are in FASS right) so the thought of half the module being centered on numbers was reason enough for me to worry. However, Dr. Feng was extremely kind (honestly one of the nicest profs I've met in the department so far) and was really clear about his expectations, which made the projects and final exam much easier to tackle. It turns out that I actually enjoyed my statistics project, although it was my first time using SPSS. The qualitative part of the module would also require you to do your own qualitative research, such as interviews and participant observation. I would say it's quite beneficial on the overall, especially in view of those who are planning on doing an honors thesis. 
Workload: Light ( barely any readings, but project intensive )
Grade: A-

SC2209 -Money, Business, and Networks
Professor: A/P Jung Ji Wook
Let me just begin by saying that this module is definitely one of the more challenging modules I've taken. Prof JJW really wanted consistent learning, so marks were accorded for class/tutorial participation ( "fluff" was not tolerated --if you actually made a valuable contribution he would write down your point, and if not you get nothing). I actually really liked him for that, good on you prof! Class participation was also placed at an unusually high 20% to encourage critical discussions, a component I found challenging as I generally prefer not to speak in class. In terms of lecture content, things were fairly doable, but the readings were both heavy and lengthy. I would saying doing two out of four readings a week would suffice, if you read them properly and gleaned the main points from the writers. One of the best parts of the module was seeing the convergence of economics and sociology and learning how something that is often thought to be "quantitative and fixed" merged seamlessly with something more "qualitative and fluid". Prof JJW also made it a point to give each student an individual consultation before we began our final project, just to see if our thesis statements and outlines were viable. I really appreciated that, and found it to be really helpful. This module was definitely a tough nut to crack but I took away so much from it --would definitely recommend this if you are up for a challenge.
Workload: Heavy
Grade: A

SC2218 -Anthropology and the Human Condition
Professor: A/P Eric Thompson
I really hated this module at the start, because I hadn't had any experience in the field of anthropology. For those of you who aren't aware, anthropology as a major is not offered in NUS, although they do include anthropology based modules under sociology. The approach to writing definitely sees deviation from your typical sociology essays, with anthropology (in my humble opinion) being more descriptive. Readings are also more "cultural" than "theoretical" per se. The thing about Prof Eric is that he deviates to keep the students engaged --both a vice and a virtue, as one can easily end up lost. Fortunately, there are webcasts for this module, which I referred to when some lectures got too messy. On a brighter note, I think it's pretty easy to score well for this module, as Prof Eric's questions are really quite predictable :) If you stay alert in lectures, you will also observe in time that he has a way of navigating around his points to form a complete narrative (it does take time to figure out his style).
Workload: Manageable
Grade: A+

SC2211 -Medical Sociology
Professor: A/P Paulin Straughan
Before taking this module, I heard mostly good reviews about Prof. Paulin. As such, although I wasn't very interested in this topic, I decided to take it and I have to say --this was probably one of the least critical/interesting/engaging sociology modules I have taken thus far. I don't know if it was due to the large number of nursing students in this module, but the sociological links made were unconvincing and weakly drawn, at least to me. I wouldn't say it's a difficult module, but I felt at the end of the day that I didn't learn much. You could pretty much do zero readings and still get by your projects and finals with an okay grade. It was a waste to me, as I could've taken other more interesting modules such as Sociology of Food. 
Workload: Light
Grade: A-

SC2212 -Sociology of Deviance
Professor: A/P Narayanan Ganapathy
I have yet to hear a single bad review about Prof Gana. He is one of my favorite profs and I'll bet that I'm not the only sociology senior you'll hear this from. One of the most striking and endearing things about Prof Gana is that his passion literally oozes out and you can see the sparks in his eyes when he teaches. Deviance is his "pet module"(as he often fondly says) and the topic is really interesting in itself! In fact, most people actually do the readings for this as the papers present really intriguing and novel ideas, such as "prison as a school for learning". The only thing to note about this module is that Prof Gana lectures "free style", meaning to say he rambles on while you struggle to find which slide exactly he is addressing. I would suggest doing away with the slides altogether and just focusing on what he says, because you'll find that he closes quite nicely with a couple of points that he really wants to drive home. On the overall it was a highly enjoyable module --really interesting, and it definitely changed the way I perceived crime and deviance. 
Workload: Manageable
Grade: A+

SC2216 -Sociology of Emotion
Professor: A/P George Radics
I took this module because the title seemed interesting --after all, emotions are commonly perceived to be something that is intensely individual, and it was interesting to see the role that the social had to play in this narrative. I'll admit, I really like Prof Radics and had hoped to take a module under him every since I took SC3101, where he co-taught with Prof Emily Chua. This module would be one where you really get to express a lot more of your personal opinions, and I immensely enjoyed the luxury of space we had to expound on our ideas. I distinctly remember there being a reading on Tiger Moms, which was both humorous and revelatory of deeper social issues and biases. Tutorial discussions were both lively and interesting, which I appreciated quite a lot, even if I did not speak up as often. It definitely isn't difficult to do well in this module if you can think critically and creatively --Prof Radics really appreciates visionary ideas, as long as cogently delivered. 
Workload: Manageable
Grade: A+

SC3101 -Social Thought and Theory
Professors: A/P Emily Chua and George Radics
I've been warned of the many horror stories in taking this module, but it was compulsory for sociology majors, so I hadn't a choice really. However, this module really took me by surprise, because it actually makes my top three favorites. In all honesty, I would attribute a large part of this to the way Prof Chua and Prof Radics handled lectures and tutorials. There were three essays on Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, which meant I spent quite a hefty amount of time on projects (it got really exhausting at points). The projects were graded pretty harshly and many students got really dejected, with some seriously considering giving up on the module (till they realized this module was a requisite and not applicable for the S/U option). On hindsight however, I think the projects were extremely beneficial as they ensured that we had an primary idea of each major theorist, greatly alleviating the intense revision for our final exam. As much as I enjoyed the module, it definitely was not easy, and it was both project and reading intensive. I remember having to read some readings twice, as they were pretty heavy and could often appear elusive to my limited comprehension. I would definitely advise doing ALL your readings if you want to do well for this module, you definitely can't get by mere novelty of ideas.
Workload: Heavy
Grade: A+

SC3204 -Sociology of Education
Professor: A/P Anne Raffin
Being a homeschooled student who had never been in school prior to NUS, I definitely found this module a natural draw. There exists lots of room for self-learning in this module when you take it under Prof Anne, as she only covers the basics in lectures and pretty much leaves you to figure the rest yourself. This module was surprisingly easy for a level three, although there was a project worth 40%, usually group work ( obviously this means that if you mess this up, you're pretty screwed). Thankfully, I had taken the module with a good friend of mine and we did decently. I have heard some other not-so-pretty stories though, so I would really suggest taking this with a friend or finding a partner with similar goals, because the project can really pull your final grade down. After a while, however, the module started to get a little draggy and I was kind of looking forward to its end. Readings are extremely lengthy (sometimes she assigns you an entire book a week) but you don't have to read everything, honestly. I would suggest being familiar with about 6/7 of 10 topics as a strategy for finals --you'll be pretty safe.
Workload:  Light
Grade: A-

SC3205 -Sociology of Power
Professor: A/P Kurtulus Gemici
This module was a killer, I'm not even going to lie. The readings were extremely heavy and every tutorial only had me feeling more and more lost. It was difficult to grasp the essence of each lecture as the points being made were extremely broad. As Prof Kurt specialises in political sociology, lectures felt very similar to political science lectures, with hardly any reference to social theorists, save the occasional mention of Marx. It seemed in my opinion to be more of a merge between history and political science, rather than sociology per se. A lot of the discussion on power was made in reference to historical events, and I struggled to find the sociology in it. However, if you look at the module from a neutral perspective, I would still consider it to be pretty interesting --you do learn a lot and Prof Kurt is extremely open to debates and questions. It might be beneficial to note that there is a 40% essay assignment for this module, which I messed up by misreading the question ( slow claps for self) but yes, be really meticulous in dissecting the question and start planning early for your essay. Wouldn't say this seems like your typical sociology module in the least, but I would definitely recommend it if you're up for a challenge. It definitely honed my critical thinking abilities.
Workload: Heavy
Grade: A-

SC3216 -Self and Society
Professor: Dr. Ho Swee Lin
I can't look back upon this module without a smile. Dr. Ho has such a different way of teaching, and definitely isn't going to spoon feed you. Lectures are conducted in a fairly free manner, with lots of analogies and plenty of references of Dr. Ho's life stories --in short, they were a pleasure to listen to, although they left me (and quite a number of my friends) at a loss of what to "take home". There is no webcast, so I would say you really have to decide for yourself the learning points of each topic. Although daunting, it really helped me to learn independently and write coherently in a concise manner. There was a group project that required each group to do a presentation (quite rare, especially in sociology modules), after which we were intensely grilled, both by our tutorial mates and Dr. Ho. I don't quite know how to sum up this module, but it was very interesting, although one of my poorest scoring in all the modules I have ever taken. You definitely aren't going to receive an easy A with this module, but you'll take away a whole lot --I definitely did.
Workload: Manageable
Grade: B+

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